I often question the reasons I do not eat most animals. For me it started nearly 20 years ago when two major events happened in my life. Before these events I was a prolific meat-eater, liking my steak rare and very rarely allowing a vegetable near my mouth. I can’t remember in which order these events occurred, and I will get in trouble for that, but one of them was living with my second wife Stef, who does not eat meat, and the second was from spending several days in a car with a lady called Heike Fix (I am sure I have spelt her name wrong and will get in trouble for that as well!) in Eastern Europe investigating the transport conditions for horses destined for slaughter. I think that the influence of both these people was the catalyst to make me change my meat-eating ways. Heike provided the shock and evidence related to the treatment of animals before and during slaughter, and Stef provided the home environment that enabled me to change to a non-meat diet without the problems associated with trying to prepare meatless meals at home, when the rest of the household is stuffing themselves on chicken nuggets and bacon.
I think one of the reasons I was able to give up meat without too much fuss was that I am one of life’s grazers. What I mean by that is that I have a personality that likes to keep moving and find new things to experience, very rarely settling into long-term routines. I also have a non-addictive nature, if I decide I don’t want to do anything anymore then I don’t find it too hard to stop. For instance when I decided to stop smoking it was not a major problem for me.
So you are probably thinking, based on the above, how long will it be before I change my mind about eating animals and go back to it? Well I am pretty sure it will never happen. To me, like smoking, killing and eating animals is now just fundamentally the wrong thing to do. It goes far beyond my need to find new things to do, it is something that affects everything I do and every decision I make.
Many people have told me that I change my mind a lot, and it’s true. But in reality it is because I have lots of ideas and in my enthusiasm I tend to talk about them before I have thought them through. Sometimes you have to go some way down the road with an idea before you can make an educated guess about if it is something you should pursue or not. With animal welfare I have travelled many of them roads and am committed to the general direction, but, I can still not decide how far I should go.
When I first decided to give up eating meat I did my normal thing. It was not good enough for me to go vegan, oh no, I had to go frugarian, which is only eating the parts of any plant that can be given without killing the host, or which the host would give up in its normal life cycle. For instance, nearly all fruits, seeds, such as rice and wheat, and non-root vegetables, such as beans and peas. I don’t think Stef was too pleased with our frugarian wedding reception! Since then I have been a fully fledged vegan and most things in between, but I have never gone back to eating the flesh of land animals again.
So here I am 20 odd years on from making my decision not to eat meat, still trying to decide how far down this life changing road I should go and why. I know, and have known many inspirational animal welfare people who have collectively rescued or improved the lives of tens of thousands, if not millions of animals, and all but a few of those animal welfare giants, ate animals. I have been to functions hosted by some of the largest animal welfare organisations where there was no animal friendly food available at all! And I suspect that only a small percentage of the staff and volunteers of most animal welfare organizations, are non-meat eaters, so how does that work?
In my case, in an ideal world I would like not to cause the death of any sentient being simply because I do not want to cause suffering so that I can eat a more varied type of food. I know that I can survive without animal protein but now and then I weaken and will eat some fish or other sea based life such as prawns. When drawn on the subject in conversation I have in the past stated that my main objection to meat-eating is the way animals are farmed, and that I have less qualms about eating animals that have lived a natural existence, such as non-factory farmed fish. But in reality deep down I believe that it is wrong to take the life of any other species unless my life is not tenable without doing so. And that is just not the case; in fact the opposite is true. To my mind it is a proven fact that the consumption of meat, apart from causing so much suffering is causing terrible problems to the environment and the health of the human species. You don’t have to look to hard to find pretty conclusive evidence that cancer, obesity, greenhouse gasses, and lots of other bad things are associated to our need for copious amounts of animal flesh.
Why then do I, having considered this for so many years, and believing that it’s wrong to do so, weaken now and then? To be honest, I think it just comes down to a lack of will power and is normally associated with going out or a special occasion where prawns or piece of fish somehow becomes too hard to resist. Mind you with most restaurants, especially where we live in Spain, offering zero choices when it comes to vegan friendly food you can understand why many non-animal eaters hate going out to eat.
Although I am quite passionate about my belief that eating our fellow creatures is wrong for so many reasons, (ok yes I know I don’t practice what I preach 100%,) I am disappointed that I have not knowingly converted anybody to live an animal friendly lifestyle. All my children, my parents, my brothers and sisters, most of my friends and many of my colleagues all eat meat. Either I am a terrible advert for not eating meat, or the temptation for the products animals bring to the table is just too strong to resist, or my concern for the welfare of animals is misplaced and I should go out, slay a cow and tuck in.
If any of you have managed to read this far and are still awake enough to reply, I would appreciate your thoughts on why you do, or do not animals. Actually writing this has been quite cathartic for me and has if anything has focused me more on living a lifestyle that does not adversely affect the quality or length of life, of my fellow creatures.